Genes, brain chemistry may govern nicotine cravings

November 14th, 2007 - 8:38 am ICT by admin  
“The depth of a person’s addiction to nicotine appears to depend on his or her unique internal chemistry and genetic make-up,” said Assistant Professor Jerry Stitzel, a researcher at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado at Boulder.

The researchers evaluated the effects of nicotine over the course of a day by examining mice that could make and “recognize” melatonin, a powerful hormone and antioxidant, and those that could not. They believe that melatonin, which is produced by darkness, tells our bodies when to sleep.

It was found that the reduced effects of nicotine at night were dependent on the mice’s genetic make-up and whether their brains and bodies were able to recognize melatonin.

The researchers also noticed that the effects of nicotine were greatest during the daytime when levels of the stress hormone corticosterone were high, a finding which might help understand why many smokers find the first cigarette of the day most satisfying.

“The negative health consequences of smoking have become well known, and a large majority of smokers say that they would like to quit. As such, we need to understand the interaction between smoking, genes and internal chemistry so we can target new therapies to those who have a hard time quitting,” Stitzel said.

He, however, admitted that more research was needed to determine the role that melatonin might play in altering the effects of nicotine, and whether the correlation between higher corticosterone levels and nicotine sensitivity was a coincidence.

The study was presented at Neuroscience 2007 in San Diego. (ANI)

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